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The Swing Era


1. National Center for History in the Schools, UCLA

2. NAfME: The National Association for Music Education

3. For information on ordering The Instrumental History of Jazz 2-CD set, click here.

4. Student handouts can be downloaded from the Jazz in America website and photocopied.

5. Any material from the Jazz in America website may be downloaded, printed, and/or made into a PowerPoint slide as the instructor sees fit.


  1. The Swing Era
  2. Cultural Implications of Swing

National Standards for United States History1

Historical Thinking
Students should be able to:
  1. Draw upon the visual, literary, and musical sources, including (a) photographs, paintings, cartoons, and architectural drawings; (b) novels, poetry, and plays; and (c) folk, popular and classical music, to clarify, illustrate, or elaborate upon information presented in the historical narrative (Historical Comprehension Standard 2I).
Historical Content
Students should understand the limitations of Progressivism and the alternatives offered by various groups (Era 7: The Emergence of Modern America Standard 1C). Therefore, the student should be able to:
  1. Examine the perspectives of various African Americans on Progressivism and their alternative programs.

National Standards for Music Education2

Artistic Process - Creating: Imagine, Plan and Make, Evaluate and Refine, and Present Music
  1. Generate musical ideas for various purposes and contexts. – Improvise rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic ideas, and explain connections to specific purpose and context (such as social, cultural, and historical) (MU:Cr1.1.5a); iGenerate musical ideas (such as rhythms, melodies, and accompaniment patterns) within specific related tonalities, meters, and simple chord changes (MU:Cr1.1.5b).
  2. Select and develop musical ideas for defined purposes and contexts. – Demonstrate selected and developed musical ideas for improvisations, arrangements, or compositions to express intent, and explain connection to purpose and context (MU:Cr2.1.5a); Use standard and/or iconic notation and/or recording technology to document personal rhythmic, melodic, and two-chord harmonic musical ideas (MU:Cr2.1.5b).
  3. Evaluate and refine selected musical ideas to create musical work(s) that meet appropriate criteria. – i. Evaluate, refine, and document revisions to personal music, applying teacher provided and collaboratively developed criteria and feedback, and explain rationale for changes (MU:Cr3.1.5a).
  4. Share creative musical work that conveys intent, demonstrates craftsmanship, and exhibits originality.. – Present the final version of personal created music to others that demonstrates craftsmanship, and explain connection to expressive intent (MU:Cr3.2.5a)
Artistic Process - Responding: Select, Analyze, Interpret and Evaluate Music
  1. Choose music appropriate for a specific purpose or context. – Demonstrate and explain, citing evidence, how selected music connects to and is influenced by specific interests, experiences, purposes, or contexts (MU:Re7.1.5a).
  2. Analyze how the structure and context of varied musical works inform the response. – Demonstrate and explain, citing evidence, how responses to music are informed by the structure, the use of the elements of music, and context (such as social, cultural, and historical) (MU:Re7.2.5a).
  3. Support interpretations of musical works that reflect creators’/performers’ expressive intent. – Demonstrate and explain how the expressive qualities (such as dynamics, tempo, timbre, and articulation) are used in performers’ and personal interpretations to reflect expressive intent (MU:Re8.1.5a).
  4. Support evaluations of musical works and performances based on analysis, interpretation, and established criteria. – Evaluate musical works and performances, applying established criteria, and explain appropriateness to the context, citing evidence from the elements of music (MU:Re9.1.5a).
Artistic Process - Connecting: Synthesize and Relate Musical Ideas
  1. Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make music. – Demonstrate how interests, knowledge, and skills relate to personal choices and intent when creating, performing, and responding (MU:Cn10.0.5a).
  2. Relate musical ideas and works with varied context to deepen understanding. – Demonstrate understanding of relationships between music and the other arts, other disciplines, varied contexts, and daily life (MU:Cn11.0.5a).

The student will:
  1. gain a fundamental understanding of Swing
  2. understand the American historical significance and cultural implications of the Swing Era

  1. computer logged onto www.jazzinamerica.org
  2. LCD projector and screen
  3. CD player (optional)

  1. The Instrumental History of Jazz (IHJ)3 – optional
    1. two CDs
    2. accompanying booklet
  2. Student Handouts4 (one per student)

The instructor will:
  1. distribute student handouts5
  2. discuss the fundamentals of big band swing
  3. discuss American history and culture regarding the Swing Era
  4. play various jazz recordings of big band swing

The students will:
  1. participate in a class discussion regarding big band Swing Era jazz
  2. participate in a class discussion regarding jazz history as a part of American history, including jazz’s cultural implications
  3. listen to jazz recordings of big band swing
  4. follow and interact with the animated student handout entitled "Journey #3: Kansas City, Missouri" at www.jazzinamerica.org (click on the Student Handout button on the left-hand side of your screen)

A Test Bank is provided that includes questions in the four formats listed below. At the teacher's discretion, all of the questions in each test bank may be used, or a few questions from each format may be selected to compile a shorter test.
  1. Multiple Choice
  2. Fill in the Blanks
  3. True / False
  4. Matching

The following topics and activities are covered in the Student Handout:

  1. Destination and Dates: Kansas City, 1930's

  2. Historical Event: The Great Depression

  3. Vocabulary:
    cutting contest
    inland waterway
    New Deal
    stock market
    Swing style jazz
    twelve-bar blues
  4. Experience the Music
    Found throughout each student handout, this section provides students with an activity to help them Experience the Music firsthand.
    CALL and RESPONSE: Students decide the order and speed of calls and responses.

    12-BAR BLUES: Students write blues lyrics.
  5. Jazz Artists:
    Count Basie
    Herschel Evans
    Coleman Hawkins
    Lisa Henry
    Andy Kirk
    Fate Marable
    Bennie Moten
    Charlie Parker
    Jimmy Rushing
    Mary Lou Williams
    Lester Young

the Herbie Hancock institute of jazz
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